According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, the highly sought after Apple iPhone could be much more affordable by the end of the year.

The reports suggest that a less expensive version of the iPhone, using different materials and presumably fewer bells and whistles, is in the works and might retail between $99 US and $149 US. Apple might yet decide not to go ahead with this version, the newspaper also says.

The makers of the iconic phone have faced stiff competition in recent years with the rise of smartphones running on Google's open-sourced Android platform. These phones, which have been steadily gaining market share, offer a wide variety of options and prices, which Apple has not been able to compete with.

The first iPhone was launched six years ago today, Jan. 9, 2007, and the current iteration, the iPhone 5, retails in Canada for $699 and up.

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Android smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note II, have provided stiff competition for the iPhone. (Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)

The potential launch of a less-expensive line would diversify the company's range and put it toe-to-toe with lower-cost rivals. 

The Wall Street Journal spoke with a person familiar with the company's plans, but who asked not to be named as negotiations are private.

 Apple has spoken to a few U.S. wireless carriers about its plans, according to the source.

One manner in which Apple might lower the price of the device is to replace the materials in the phone with less expensive options. It has been said that Apple ruminated about using polycarbonate plastic rather than the ubiquitous aluminum that current iPhones come in.

According to source cited in the Wall Street Journal, the lower-end version of the iPhone could launch as early as the end of 2013.